Why I Left the Full-Frame Camp

In late 2013, I bought a new Canon EOS 6D. I thought full frame is the way to go. And to some degree, still have the same sentiment. If you learned the basics of photography on film camera, a full-frame digital camera is a fairly easy transition. Field of view is the same, metering is about the same and depth of field is predictable. So why is it after a year of use, did I feel the need to dump full-frame image quality for something with 1/2 the sensor size?

Back in college – community college to be accurate – I took a couple photography courses. I started out with crappy little Chinon 35mm SLR camera and an equally crappy 50mm lens. I paid around $100 for it back then, which, now that I think about it, was ridiculous. Especially considering the fact that it was roughly two or three stops off. Anyway, my point is, that's where I started. That was roughly 20 years ago. Roughly.

Flash forward a few years to my first real digital camera. The Canon EOS Digial Rebel XTi. After a couple years with that, the micro 4/3rds system started to appear on the market. A camera not much bigger than the average point and shoot with much better image quality AND interchangeable lenses? I was sold. So, I sold the Xti and bought my first mirrorless camera: The Panasonic DMC-GF1 with the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. For the size, the image quality was really good (up to about ISO 1600).

Courtesy of dpreviewPhoto Credit: dpreview.com.Panasonic GF1 at ISO 1600 (Olympus 50mm f/2 Macro @ f/6.3)

I had that camera for more than 5 years. In fact, I just recently sold it because it was sitting around collecting dust and it still had plenty of life left.

Back to the topic at hand.

When Canon released the 6D, I was somewhat excited. I thought, "Hmm, a full-frame DSLR at a semi-affordable price." I would look into buying a new camera every other month then eventually get side tracked by some other shiny object that caught my eye at the time. Sony also released a full-frame camera around the same time, the Sony A7 and Sony A7R. I looked at these too, but for whatever reason was less drawn to them. I eventually purchased a new 6D kit with the Canon EF 24-105 f4L.

It was a really good camera. There were a lot of things I liked about it. I bought adapters for my old Olympus OM lenses I had been collecting. Noise at high ISO settings were amazingly minimal. It was comfortable to use. I took some pretty good photos with this camera. Like this one:

Canon 6D ShotSan Francisco Belle: Canon 6D + Wallimex Pro 14mm f/2.8: ISO 1000 1/15s @ f/5.6

and this one

LillyLilly: Canon 6D + Olympus OM 50mm f/3.5 Macro: ISO 5000 1/15s @ f/5.6

So, why did I sell it in favor of a smaller sensor? Well, for me it was about usage, or, rather, the probability of usage. Id est, how likely was I to grab this camera when ever I left the house. In the beginning, I used it a lot and took it as many places as I could. But that didn't last long. I soon found that I would grab my Panasonic DMC-LX7 because it was small and image quality was a pretty good trade off. Eventually, I just came to the realization that, regardless of image quality, it was just a touch to bulky for me to cary around.

Size ComparisonSize comparison of Canon EOS 6D vs Olympus OM-D E-M1

I eventually came back to the micro 4/3rds system. Sold all the Canon gear I had and bought a second hand Olympus OM-D E-M1. The image quality is maybe not quite as good as the Canon, but in everyday use for the average enthusiast, it's quite good (unless you're a pixel peeper in which case you should have stopped reading this at the title). The photo at the top of this post was taken with the a micro 4/3rds camera and the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens. And, just for reference, here's a couple more images from the micro 4/3rds gear:

LillyOlympus OM-D E-M1 + Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro: 40mm ISO 200 1/250s @ f/2.8

NigelOlympus OM-D E-M1 + Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8: ISO 200 1/400s @ f/2

GoosedOlympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8: 100mm ISO 200 1/800s @ f/2.8

I'm not trying to convince you to ditch your camera. Why? Because only you can make that decision. Don't let anyone tell you which camera is right for you and/or your particular uses. Use the tool that works best for you. Also, get educated about what's available. I've been a long time reader of dpreview.com and also like to check out Photozone and Lens Rental's blog for lens information.

Randy Sesser

Seasoned coder. Beer connoisseur. Photo enthusiast. This is me.

PDX

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